Berube's assumption is that to take a moral stance necessarilly implies a correct rational foreign policy with a military component. The example of Kosovo is said to provide a paradigmatic example of the application of B's ethical imperatives; given that the fundamental decision to intervene is correct, it is always possible to determine that the same imperatives will be the basis for deciding what is correct in the future. Limited to the considerations of military excercise, foreign policy is defined paradigmatically or axiomatically as the justified application of force. When the twin imperatives of fighting fascism and defending human rights cease to be a necessary concern to one with "internationalist leanings" then a socialist concern for "human rights" can be entrusted to amateur bureaucrats. Remarkably, Berube's entire 2009 work is devoid of reference to globalism's other sectors, for example the financial sector, or of reference to the variety of treaties and negotiations concerning trade. But for now we can merely be assured of Berube's confirmation that foreign policy (military adventures) has nothing to do with pipelines or the like. Berube's entire critique of the "hard left" concept of "imperialist" foreign policy is the assertion that to identify transcontinental pipelines carrying extremely valuable natural resources as a fundamental consideration in determining the worth of the military expediture in the Kosovo campaign is categorically preposterous.

Berube's supposedly "left" analysis is devoid of a compelling response to the accusations of imperialism levied against the U.S. and Britain since Vietnam and including Afghanistan and Iraq. Berube makes no mention of the fact that the mainstream media's discourse validates one theory while ignoring another. Berube repeats that the invasion of Afghanistan followed an attack driven by ideological conflict. He dismisses as "uninfluential" the interpretation that Afghanistan has long been an important region to the export of natural resources; this despite for example that Hamid Karzai worked for Unocal or that the region contains major lithium deposits.

Nor does Berube countenance any discussion that the invasion of Afghanistan as well as that of Iraq fulfills the neoconservative foreign-policy vision best known through the Project for a New American Century. No, he's too busy for the better first third of his book parsing Chomsky's pronouncements over the root cause of anti-western sentiment by Muslim radicals. Thus Berube offers essentially no response to Chomsky's fundamental claims, instead only alluding to the possibility that they may interpreted in such as way as to prove inaccurate or arbitrary in certain situations. Berube does not challenge Chomsky's comparisons but accuses Chomsky of unprincipled rhetoric. Berube assumes that an "either/or" choice exists between Chomsky's type of rhetoric shared by Berube's invented category of the "Manichean left" and Berube's type of categorical judgements.

Berube quotes Stuart Hall, a figure whom he reveres, in what seems to be an almost cryptical manner subtly sidestepping the problems which Berube himself has raised. He gives Hall "his due" by agreeing that when the populace has been goaded into a war fervor that one should avoid regaling them with "propoganda." For Berube, the entire history of Empire and colonialism has seemingly been relegated to "propoganda", something which only Chomsky and other "Manichean" thinkers and pundits would stoop to in their efforts to counter "false consciousness." But what does Berube take Hall to mean when Hall says "The culture of an old empire is an imperialist culture but that is not all it is..."? In the rest of the passage which Berube quotes, Hall advocates for bad ideas (Imperialism) to be replaced with better ones. This idea of improvement subtly redefines the judgement of history to the idea that a nation that can spout noble rhetoric must be essentially good or at least capable of good.

Berube's efforts to dissociate the left from Marxist thinking (class war) seems to lead him to gloss over the need for any historical thinking about how to produce these "better ideas." Instead, Berube goes on to argue that perhaps Britain did have a valid position in reclaiming its territory in that it had been taken over by a "fascist." The ultimate object for Berube, however, is not that foreign policy be dictated by some sort of moral framework of judgement while humanity gradually adopts better ideas, but that these better ideas can be formalized in objective law. But the establishment of such law would not in itself necessarily imply that it is being adhered to, nor does it, as I argue later, imply a single source for such atuhority.

Berube calls himself a leftist because he promotes the idea of a guarantee ("ungrounded") of basic necessities to the individual regardless of ability to pay and in the second place one which seeks to establish effective international law and institutions. Berube unfortunately seems to be looking for a slogan rather than formulating a credible understanding of the forces at work in creating a need or momentum toward international law and institutions. His perspective seems to that of those who earnestly seek to convince those who are highly critical of existing systems and conditions that it is possible to be just as "radical" as those who deliberately position themselves as working against "the system" while not needing to be what Berube almost tautologically categorizes as a type of dissent-for-the-purpose-of-dissent. Thus, while Berube spends multiple pages sussing out the intracacies of the Falkland Island War, he casually dismisses those sloganeering marchers who spout the usual fare of far-left rallies such as "Palestine must be free, from the river to the sea."

It can't be good when one person effectively represents the loyal opposition to Empire, but surely Chomsky has due regard for "international law and institutions." However, Berube's efforts to parse Chomsky's words and hold him accountable for what Berube portrays as Chomsky's less successful attempts to communicate a clear position on certain matters does not do Berube well in his effort to build his case. By the time we have reached the concluding segment of Berube's work, he seems to have squandered the opportunity to address the larger issues which concern his aim, such as exactly why Berube disagreed with the war in Iraq but approved of the invasion of Afghanistan. Berube seems to take it for granted that it is obvious to anyone who he has aimed his book at that one need go no further than to point out that the invasion of Iraq was unjustified on the grounds that Saddam Hussein was not involved in 9-11 and that innocent people would die as a result.

Berube sees no need to elaborate further on the matter of Afghanistan after simply stating that "they" (some nebulous category of radical Muslims fighting against authoritarian regimes and who embrace terrorism) do after all operate from a profoundly anti-liberal position. By the time we get to Berube's exploration of the Falkland Island War, we have no more an idea of how applying Berube's moral calculus will bring us closer to realizing the goals of international law and institutions than when we began. We only know that one has to be careful as to how to sell one's ideas to the public. One has to beat the right at their own game, simultaneously taking into account the way in which the message must be crafted to gain the consent and agreement of the public but doing so in a way that the message and the goal are as close to being consistent as possible. Ironically, Berube thus seems to fall back on a position as "ideological" as that which he claims 'Marxism' to have been; that while reality is too complex for reason to comprehend (and thus -as Marx stated- must be handled through ideology) we can engage in a scientific rhetoric premised upon the notion that "progress" is inevitable.

Quote Berube, pg 174:

As Hall puts it in the 1985 essay, "Realignment - For What?" the ossified routines of the "hard left" are part of what a New Left needs to overcome:

Quote Hall:

"What is wrong with the habits and positions - or model - which have shaped the "hard left," as I have been defining it? Basically, that model has committed us over the years to an analysis which no longer has at its centre an accurate description of contemporary social, economic or cultural realities. Second, it has attached us to a definition of how change occurs in society which in no way adequately reflects the actual social composition of the class forces and social movements necessary to produce it or the democratic realities of our society. Third, it is no longer able to politicize and develop the majority experiences and dispositions of the popular forces which the left must enilist. Fourth, it is wedded to an automatic conception of class, whereby the economic conditions can be transposed directly on to the political and ideological stage. (Hard Road to Renewal, 242)"

To which I would say none but the "hard left" have been doing any sort of valid popular history that first set the stage for truly revealing the patterns and conditions which shape the form of human history. They who have made the scarce forays into the broadest panoramas of destiny to savor, the greatest challenge to order itself scarce seen manifest in the youngest generations of Total Earth. We will sweep forth!

Quote Hall:

Thatcherism has never been "hegemonic" if by that we mean that it succeeded in unifying amajor social bloc and "winning the consent" of the great majority of the subordinate classes of society and other key social forces to a major task of social reconstruction. Especially if we conceive "hegemony" as a permanent, steady state of affairs. What we have always argued is that it had a "hegemonic project." It was designed to renovate society as a whole. And, in doing so, itunderstood that it must organize on a variety of social and cutural sites at once, both in society and in the state, on moral and cultural, as well as economic and political terrain, using them all to initiate the deep reformation of society.. It has not acheived the goal of securing a period of social andmoral ascendancy over British society, whose problems remain as yet too deep and intractable for such an enterprise. But it remains, bu dint of a more "directive" form of authoritarian populist politics, the leading force in British political life. (Hard Road to Renewal, 91)

This is another example of a self-fashioned "leftist" proclaiming the need to repair the economy, that is to somehow "fix" things by embracing sensible, fair, and radical-souonding proposals. The thunderous rejection of this posture is only the beginning as successes and idealistic reforms have been carried on elsewhere in the hemisphere will continue to gain respect in the opinion of the capable working-class element of the U.S., which in the end will determine its ability to adapt as the means of its attempt to take power. This means of rendering moot the system as it is determines itself through collective action which immediately and overwhelmingly or gradually but deliberately usurps the daily order of events, the set of contracts which form the fabric of a more prosperous economy or at least a more free way of life.

Quote Berube, pg 202,:

Stuart Hall was right to argue that the left needs to devise alternative discourses of things like "nation" and "law and order" rather than cede such important domains of public argument wholly to the right; he might have said the same, difficult left needs to find ways of popularizing the ide that long-term international (and, therefore, everyone's) security lies in international treaties, agreements, and institutions - ranging from the International Criminal Court to the United Nations to Human Rights Watch. This idea does not seem to be terribly popular in left popular culture at the moment; it is far more wonky and far less sexy than antiglobalization protests and culture jamming. But if the Wesphalian league of nations is ever to give way to a truly global vision of human affairs, this idea will have to be a prominent part of the left's intellectual apparatus.

Prominent apparatus, indeed, sir! Or shall we but note the passing of the Westphalian league of nations with a cheerful "No, thanks." If such a thing gives way to anything it is the inevitable reckoning of strategic alliances designed to safegaurd trading and currency blocs within the global market. The growing pressure on resources and the constant strain of adaptation will test the ability of security agreements to safegaurd global transit of goods on any scale as well as individual travel. The lack of consensus behind international legal standards results in difficulties being raised for those engaged in tracking transnational and international contracts, especially in respect to stock option derived funds exchange rates. Quick transit of capital may in fact become costly to business and therefore leads to scenario of suppliers seeking to unload inventory. This could, among other things, imply the development of differing perspectives on the definition of "black market"; what standards of investigation will apply to the legality of securities exchange. What emerges on the global stage could be described as occurring within a maximum frame of analysis for transaction exchanges of any type. The representation of transactions and relationships would, if perfect in expressing complete knowledge, be analyzable along with the same type of schema for legal transactions. An overlap of opposites would reveal points of double-entry (an item viewed differently by different parties; eg when illegality is alleged, a difference of perspectives will imply a dispute between parties).


nimblecivet's picture
nimblecivet 2 years 49 weeks ago

I agree that one should approach reports on humanitarian crises or genocidal violence in Western media with a great measure of skepticism: they are as a rule heavily biased due to political and economic interests. However, although Chomsky claims he doesn’t pretend to know what actually went on in Cambodia, the bias of his own description is obvious: his sympathies lies with those who try to minimize and relativize Khmer Rouge atrocities. This bias is ideology—a set of explicit and implicit, even unspoken, ethico-political and other positions, decision, choices, etc., which predetermine our perception of facts, what we tend to emphasize or to ignore, how we organize facts into a consistent whole of a narrative or a theory. And it is this bias which displays Chomsky’s ideology in selecting and ordering data, what he downplays and what he emphasizes, not only in the case of Cambodia but also in the case of post-Yugoslav war (his downplaying of the Srebrenica massacre), etc. To avoid a misunderstanding, I am not advocating here the “postmodern” idea that our theories are just stories we are telling each other, stories which cannot be grounded in facts; I am also not advocating a purely neutral unbiased view. My point is that the plurality of stories and biases is itself grounded in our real struggles. With regard to Chomsky, I claim that his bias sometimes leads him to selections of facts and conclusions which obfuscate the complex reality he is trying to analyze.

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